September 3, 1763 – Treaty of Paris Ends the American Revolutionary War

On this day in history, The Treaty of Paris was signed, formally ending the American Revolutionary War between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the United States of America that had rebelled against British rule in 1776.

The treaty began with the words “In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.”

The most important article of the treaty was the first, which declared:

His Brittanic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.”

The wording of the Treaty promised to “forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse, between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony….”

Peace negotiations had begun in April of 1782, and continued through the summer. The United States was represented by Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, and John Adams. David Hartley and Richard Oswald represented Great Britain. The treaty was signed at the Hotel d’York in Paris by Adams, Franklin, Jay, and Hartley.

Benjamin West's painting of the delegations at the Treaty of Paris: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British delegation refused to pose, and the painting was never completed.

Benjamin West’s painting of the delegations at the Treaty of Paris: John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British delegation refused to pose, and the painting was never completed.

The treaty was ratified by the U.S. Congress on January 14, 1784.

You can read the full text of the treaty here.

August 24, 1939 – Great Britain Passes the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act of 1939 Enabling “Enemy” Internment

On this day in history, the British Parliament enacted legislation granting the government special powers pursuant to the growing threat of war in Europe. The Act was passed in reaction to the Nazi-Soviet Pact the day previously. The House of Commons was recalled from its summer recess to pass this act, which gave authority to implement the Defence Regulations that had existed in draft form after the first world war.

Russian foreign minister Molotov signs Nazi-Soviet Pact in front of his German counterpart Ribbentrop, center, and dictator Stalin in 1939

Russian foreign minister Molotov signs Nazi-Soviet Pact in front of his German counterpart Ribbentrop, center, and dictator Stalin in 1939

Defence Regulation 18B, often referred to as simply 18B, was part of the Defence (General) Regulations 1939 and allowed for the internment of people suspected of being Nazi sympathizers. The effect of 18B was to suspend the right of affected individuals to habeas corpus for the first time since the Magna Carta was adopted in 1215.

Most of the British citizens detained were members of Fascist or extreme Right-wing groups, who were generally opposed to the war with Germany. But the majority of detainees were not British citizens, but technically enemy aliens. The fact was however that many of these people were refugees trying to escape Nazi Germany.

In 1940, the Act was extended in reaction to several events: the rapid seizure of power in Norway by Germany, the fall of the Low Countries, the invasion of France, and the discovery that a clerk at the U.S. Embassy had stolen thousands of telegrams, including highly confidential correspondence between Churchill to FDR.

More and more Germans and Austrians were rounded up. Italians were also included, even though Britain was not at war with Italy until June, 1940. When Italy and Britain did go to war, there were at least 19,000 Italians in Britain, and Churchill ordered they all be rounded up. This was despite the fact that most of them had lived in Britain for decades.

British internment camp

British internment camp

After Italy’s Mussolini declared war on Great Britain and France on June 10, 1940, angry anti-Italian riots broke out in many British cities. Terrified shop owners, many with British citizenship and having been resident in the British Isles (often for decades), were forced to barricade themselves into back rooms. The worst riots were in Liverpool, Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, all with large pre-war Italian populations. In places the police were forced to charge the rampaging mobs with batons.

The worse violence occurred in Scotland with major riots in Glasgow, Clydebank and Edinburgh. Many of the rioters were young men from areas of high youth unemployment. It was thought that they used Italy’s declaration of war as an excuse to vent their xenophobia, frustration at unemployment, and anti-Catholicism. Many of their victims were not only British citizens, but had sons serving in the armed forces.

But on June 11 Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced to the country that all Italians males between the ages of seventeen and seventy who had not been resident in Britain for more than twenty years, plus all those, male and female, on the MI5 suspects list would be subject to internment.

Tatura Internment Camp, Victoria, Australia

Tatura Internment Camp, Victoria, Australia

Thousands of internees were sent to camps set up at racecourses and incomplete housing estates. The majority were interned on the Isle of Man, where internment camps had been set up in World War One.

Even though many of the ‘enemy aliens’ were Jewish refugees and hardly likely to be sympathetic to the Nazis, they were still treated as German and Austrian nationals. In one Isle of Man camp over 80 per cent of the internees were Jewish refugees. More than 7,000 internees were deported, the majority to Canada, some to Australia.


The liner Arandora Star left for Canada July 1, 1940. Designed to carry 500 passengers, Arandora Star was carrying 1,300 internees. It was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 714 lives, including many Italian British citizens and Jewish refugees. A week later, 2,542 men were taken to Australia on the Dunera. Internees were subjected to anti-Semitism, humiliating treatment and intentionally abysmal conditions on the two-month voyage. Many had their possessions destroyed by the British military guards. The Dunera was labeled a “hell-ship.”

A subsequent outcry in Parliament led to the first releases of internees in August 1940. By February 1941 more than 10,000 had been freed, and by the following summer, only 5,000 were left in internment camps. Many of those released from internment subsequently contributed to the war effort on the Home Front or served in the armed forces.

August 20, 1964 – President Johnson Signs the Equal Opportunity Act Into Law

On this day in history, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act, U.S. Public Law 88-452 (78 STAT 508). The bill approved $1 billion for social programs to combat poverty.

In his Annual Message to Congress in January of that year, the President had declared a War on Poverty, stating:

Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope–some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”

President Johnson gave Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law of recently assassinated President Kennedy, the task of developing a bill to wage the war against poverty in the United States.

In the Senate, the bill was debated for two days and then passed on July 23, 1964, with 61 Senators in favor, 34 opposed. In the House, the Senate-passed bill was debated for four days and passed by a vote of 226 to 185, on August 8, 1964. The debate and voting in both the House and Senate was highly partisan with Republicans questioning states’ rights and southern Democrats the racial integration provisions. The Senate adopted the House-passed bill that same day and twelve days later the bill was signed by President Johnson.


The Act established eleven major programs, including The Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). The legislation also authorized the Economic Opportunity Council, which led to the launch of smaller independent groups that worked with communities to establish better economic climates.

Upon signing the bill, President Johnson said:

In helping others, all of us will really be helping ourselves. For this bill will permit us to give our young people an opportunity to work here at home in constructive ways as volunteers, going to war against poverty instead of going to war against foreign enemies.”

Subsequent legislation expanded the role of the EEOC. Today, according to the EEOC website:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”

August 18, 1943 – Photo-Op At The Quebec Conference

From August 17 to 24, 1943, British, Canadian, and American leaders met in Quebec to discuss future military strategy. Several things were accomplished at the conference, which was code-named Quadrant.

Winston Churchill,  and Canadian PM William Lyon Mackenzie King stand behind U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Canada’s Governor-General, the Earl of Athlone, during the first Quebec Conference on Aug. 18, 1943

Winston Churchill, and Canadian PM William Lyon Mackenzie King stand behind U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and Canada’s Governor-General, the Earl of Athlone, during the first Quebec Conference on Aug. 18, 1943

The allies agreed to begin discussions for the planning of an invasion of France the following May, codenamed Overlord. (“D-Day” did not actually take place until June 6, 1944.)

They also discussed increasing the bombing offensive against Germany and continuing the buildup of American forces in Britain prior to an invasion of France.

Perhaps the most important agreement was that the United Kingdom and the U.S. agreed that neither would use a nuclear weapon – now in rapid development – or communicate nuclear intelligence to a third party without mutual consent.

You can read the agreement regarding nuclear weapons (“tube alloys”) here.

Allied Conference Sites During World War II

Allied Conference Sites During World War II

August 10, 1988 – President Reagan Signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988

On this day in history, President Ronald Reagan signed into law The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Pub.L. 100–383, title I, August 10, 1988, 102 Stat. 904, 50a U.S.C. § 1989b et seq.). Among other provisions, it earmarked individual payments of $20,000 to surviving Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps by the US government during World War II.

Ronald Reagan Signing the Reparations Bill

Ronald Reagan Signing the Reparations Bill

Over 120,000 Japanese Americans of all ages had been forced from their homes in California, Washington, Oregon and Arizona pursuant to Executive Order 9066, issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, which decreed that no one of Japanese ancestry could be allowed to remain on the West coast of the U.S. during its war with Japan. Some Japanese Americans were simply relocated eastward, but most were forced into internment camps.


The act was sponsored by California’s Democratic Congressman Norman Mineta, an internee as a child, and Wyoming’s Republican Senator Alan K. Simpson, who first met Mineta while visiting an internment camp. The third co-sponsor was California Senator Pete Wilson. The bill was supported by the majority of Democrats in Congress, while the majority of Republicans voted against it.

Even after the bill was passed, authorizing a total of 1.25 billion dollars for distribution, appropriating funds for this purpose proved to be very difficult. In 1988, Reagan suggested allocating a sum of $20,000,000 of the national budget for redress payments, only enough to pay 1,000 individuals.


Finally, in 1990, a bill spearheaded by Senator and 442nd regiment veteran Daniel Inouye ensured that all redress payments would be made within the next three years. When it was discovered that there were about 80,000 eligible individuals instead of 60,000, the figure on which previous assessments had been made, more funds were allocated through the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992.

When the reparations checks were finally sent out in 1993, this letter was enclosed from President Clinton to the recipients:


August 1, 1834 – Slavery Officially Abolished Throughout [Most of] the British Empire

The Slavery Abolition Act was an 1833 Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom abolishing slavery throughout most of the British Empire (with the exceptions “of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company,” the “Island of Ceylon,” and “the Island of Saint Helena”). It received the Royal Assent (which means it became law) on 29 August 1833 and came into force on 1 August 1834. 

In practical terms, however, only slaves below the age of six were freed, as all slaves over the age of six were redesignated as “apprenticed Labourers.” Apprentices were divided by this law into three classes, with the term of their apprenticeships dependent on their class. All apprentices of all classes were to be released by August, 1840. Additional provisions of the law specified how such apprentices were to be treated.


The Act also included the right of compensation for slave-owners who would be losing their “property.” The amount of money to be spent on the compensation claims was set at “the Sum of Twenty Millions Pounds Sterling”. In all, the government paid out over 40,000 separate awards. The £20 million fund was 40% of the government’s total annual expenditure.

The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 was actually repealed in its entirety under the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1998. The repeal did not make slavery legal again, however, as sections of the Slave Trade Act 1824, Slave Trade Act 1843 and Slave Trade Act 1873 remained in force. In addition the Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates into British Law Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits the holding of persons as slaves.

July 26, 1908 – The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is Established

On this day in history, Charles J. Bonaparte, Attorney General in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, signed a memo describing a “regular force of special agents” available to investigate certain cases of the Department of Justice. This date is “celebrated” [in the words of the FBI website] as the official birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — known throughout the world today as the FBI. (The agency was officially established in 1908 as the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). Its name was changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935.)

Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte

Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte

After Bonaparte was appointed to his office, he discovered that he had no means to combat the rising tide of crime and corruption. Not only were violent crimes on the rise, but political and economic corruption was also a growing problem. Bonaparte had to borrow agents from the Secret Service to help him with his cases, and not only were they expensive, but these agents reported not to the Attorney General, but to the Chief of the Secret Service, giving Bonaparte little control over his own investigations. Even more frustrating, when Bonaparte made the problem known to Congress, they banned the loan of Secret Service operatives to any federal department in May 1908.

With Roosevelt’s blessing, Bonaparte created his own force of special investigators. In his memo on this date, he ordered Department of Justice attorneys to refer most investigative matters for the Department of Justice to his Chief Examiner, Stanley W. Finch, for handling by one of his new 34 agents.



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